Equity Traps and Leadership Actions

Equity Traps and Leadership Actions
Tony Smith
Based on McKenzie, K.B. & Scheurich, J.J. (2004). Equity traps: A useful construct for
preparing leaders in schools that are successful with racially diverse students. Education
Administration Quarterly 40:5, 601-632.
Overarching Principles
 A leader needs to effectively interrupt systems of oppression (white,
heterosexist, anti-immigrant, racist, patricarchical).
 Who we are and how we are with each other matters more than anything else.
 Leaders promote and support a culture of revision of revision and redemption.
(Linda Darling-Hammond)
Characteristics/ Comments
Equity Trap 1: Deficit Model
Deficits are internal/inherent student
Social reproduction of structural norms
that dehumaize, separate, devalue and
Students’ parents don’t value education
Students need to come to school with
motivation, with good behavior
Home training is blamed when
students are “behind”
Students “breed” misbehavior from
each other
Derogatory terms: gangsters, thugs,
losers, etc.
Subtle deficit language when conscious
teachers frame exchanges with
students and families on the basis of
“it’s their culture”
Whiteness as a individual instead of
structural response (Leonardo)
Develop funds of knowledge (Moll) through:
1. Conduct community
mapping/neighborhood walks and
home visits (CA Bill 33 – 1999)
2. collect and read oral histories (Tellin’
Stories project,
3. conduct 3 way conferences; develop
methods for students-led conferences
(Ortiz-Imada LARP, 2006)
4. create coherent protected pathways
for students and families of which
school is one part of larger community
Equity Trap 2: Erasure
“race is only one little factor”
Poverty is the root cause
Colorblind – “I don’t see race; I see
Compare students of color to white
students “doing the same”
Substitute race for class – “It’s a
socioeconomic problem”
1. Develop sets of reading about othering
and whiteness and host study groups
for the purpose of uncovering
underlying causes.
2. Find and/or develop equity audits
3. Restructure class composition of
inequitable classes/assignments
Equity Trap 3: The Gaze
Surveillance is not as strong in low
income racially diverse schools;
teachers do not feel as responsible or
Treat students differently who are
racially diverse and/or poor
Employ the gaze against teachers who
raise questions through remarks, voice
tone and “look”
Silencing; status quo; acceptance of
social reproduction.
Missionary stance: “I’m there; I’ve
chosen to work with these kids” –
implicitly: isn’t that enough?
Reproductive effect of thoughtful
persons who are fearful of stepping on
the toes of other adults or causing
them to get angry; they take time to
weigh options and lose the moment of
Attack “cool pose”, in particular of AA
males, as oppositional and respond
with opposition
1. Diminish time between awareness and
2. Visualize allies so you do not feel alone
3. Use interview protocols that hire
teachers who can articulate the beliefs
and vision that is important (SEDL,
Organizing for Diversity sedl.org;
Haberman protocols)
4. Establish clear group norms so that
everyone has a voice and no one is
5. Communicate vision and expectations
daily by maintaining visibility and
observing classrooms
6. Use exit notes or other ways to collect
critical feedback
7. Develop reciprocal teacher classroom
8. Use cognitive coaching to address
beliefs and attitudes (Garmstorm, The
Adaptive Classroom)
Equity Trap 4: Paralogical Beliefs and Behaviors
Illogical conclusion based on facts
(which may be true or somewhat false
or misconstrued)
Intersects with deficit trap
“I am not successful because the
students are…..” or the “parents
Self deception and self-fulfilling
prophecy tone
Hard to see oneself as “bad” or agency
of oppression; therefore look outside of
self for explanation.
Develop lateral accountability among
Develop ways of responding to
students who have internalized the
paralogical stance and oppression, as
they may not change immediately
Peer classroom visits to make teaching
Coaching by master teachers who
address faulty logic
Demonstration lessons by coaches
Build equity allies at school
strategically and consistently to
overcome our sense of inadequacy or
Study collections